Friday, September 19, 2008

Park[ing] day and other adventures

Took Kidlo to the Park[ing] parks. CRA/LA had a very nice park in front of the Popular Center on 4th. (Update: It's not CRA's, no ma'am, we know nothing of this park (wink))

The Downtown Neighborhood Council Park took over all of Winston, but included it's own parking spaces on the (fake) grass.

The Melendrez Park was an oases of green and shade in a sea of Downtown TV Filming. The young lady serving as Park Host (I didn't catch your name, sorry!) told me the TV peeps had been "very good about it."

The Torti Gallas park was... For Sale?

I tried to get to the EDOW Park on fifth, but the street was pretty much blocked off by a Bank Robbery being held at the Citi on Fifth and Flower.

When I got there, the Boys were lining up to go break up the party...

Ready, set...

Here we go!

Everybodies in. At this point, I decided it was time to go.

Taking a break from blogging

I'm starting a writing class on Tuesday, so I'll be taking a blogging break for a while. There will be occasional posts and MB will also being weighing in, but it won't be the 2-3 times a week thing I've had going since May. If anyone wants to get in touch, there's a contact button on the sidebar of the blog.

Take care and be back in December.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No. Just, no.

I can understand that a gallery needs to maximize its income stream, but is Rouge Galerie really that desperate? These girls are appalled.

(Note to gallery owners: time to update your site).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The most succinct summary of the financial crisis I've seen

From the London Times:

The collapse is bad news and has intensified the credit crunch. Banks are more fearful about lending to one another or to customers. They are hoarding cash. Movements in the wholesale money markets yesterday showed conditions dramatically worsening. It will be harder to get a loan, credit card or mortgage. Debt will cost more. Businesses will find it harder to borrow. Lack of credit and diving house prices are slowing consumer spending. That hits sales, sours business confidence and leads to job losses and wage freezes. Economists predicting a mild recession might now have to brace themselves for something darker.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Black Monday

As you know, Wall Street is going to hell. How will this affect Downtown LA? Let's hear a quote from Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (via the NY Times):

Mr. Paulson, whose performance has been impressive this year, made it clear that it would take a while — years, in fact — to get over the current housing and mortgage mess.
“I believe there is a reasonable chance that the biggest part of that housing crisis can be behind us in a number of months. I’m not saying two or three months, but in months as opposed to years. I think we will have housing issues and mortgage issues for years.”

Yikes. And that's just the housing market. There's also all the financial services people who work Downtown and are facing layoffs. And tight credit will keep small businesses from getting loans to open stores downtown.

It's ugly and it's going to get uglier.

Update: Washington Mutual's bond rating has been lowered to junk. It's widely believed that WaMu is going to fail this week or next. They are a huge player in the California real estate market.

Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Inside the Stock Exchange

I snapped this through a hole in the plywood that covers one of the windows of the Stock Exchange. This will soon be home to Versus. Let's hope they don't paint over those elevator doors the way they did the front doors.

Update: My darling husband just told me that this isn't the Stock Exchange interior but the lobby of the soon-to-open SB Tower.

<Emily Litella>Never mind</Emily Litella>

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Downtown Scootin'

I've been seeing a lot of scooters downtown recently.

And why not? They are easy to park.

/not paying $175 for monthly parking.

$4.00 gas is less painful when you are getting 70 to 120 MPG.

or perhaps half a cent's worth of electricity a day.

My I suggest (as strongly as I can) that scooterists wear a motorcycle helmet when riding?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The other families Downtown

The Downtown News has a story this week on a program to bring toys and books to children at the Huntington Hotel at 752 S. Main Street.

The little-known program, which has 43 outposts throughout the county, invites children to borrow a toy and return it a week later. If the child returns the toy in good condition, they can get a new toy. Marcia Blachman-Benitez, director of the department's toy loan and volunteer services sections, describes the program as a toy library.

If the child returns a toy five consecutive times, he or she is rewarded with a new toy they get to keep, she said.


At the Huntington, Crockett, who runs the program with the nonprofit Pasadena Altadena Community Youth Association, has tinkered slightly with the county's toy loan model by combining it with a fledgling reading program.

Children who participate earn points by reading and writing short essays about their book. Once they've amassed enough points, they become eligible to sign out a toy from the loan program, he said.

It turns out there are about 20 families living at the hotel, and that many of the hotels and shelters on Skid Row house children. It's heartbreaking to think of kids living under those conditions.

Ron Crockett, who runs the program at the Huntington, is looking for book donations, as well as volunteers to read to the children. The hotel's library only consists of 50 old and worn books.

A friend of mine works for a publisher and her employer is going to donate some books to the program. I'm starting a writing class in two weeks so I don't think I can swing volunteering right now, but I'm hoping I can do that next spring.

If you're interested in donating books and toys or your time to this program, contact Marcia Blachman-Benitez, Director of the Toy Loan program, at

Monday, September 8, 2008

Small world

I just found out that one of my coworkers is Gary Leonard's brother. MB and I bought two of Gary's photos last week. A small coincidence but it pleases me very much.

Who are these people?

I've been seeing them all over downtown.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Tourist trap?

I've been seeing a lot of European tourists in the neighborhood. Just this morning, I stopped to talk to a couple who were standing in front of the Cecil and pouring over a Metro map. I asked them if I could help and they said (in halting English), "We want to go to Venice Beach." Urgh. I directed them to the stop for the Rapid bus, but wowee, I hope they get there and back in one piece.

I love Downtown, but it's really not a good idea for obviously lost tourists flashing cameras to be wandering around near skid row. I'm thinking that the BID should be doing something to help these tourists have a good and safe stay. There's no point in getting tourists to visit only to have them go home and tell people horror stories about their stay.

Update: MB did a little googling and apparently the Europeans like the Cecil because it's cheap, clean and it's near public transportation. Ah! Now I get it. I still think a little more guidance from the BID is in order, but it makes sense that if you want to see LA without a car, Downtown is the place to be.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Seven Grand vs. Broadway Bar

MB and I went to check out Seven Grand last night and we were pretty underwhelmed. The space is nice and dark (I hate how LA bars tend to be overlit), but it didn't have any comfortable seating. The main space is dominated by two pool tables and there aren't any comfy couches or booths to sit in. The only thing I liked about it was the balcony space, because it felt like a bar out of Blade Runner.

We decided to skip out of Seven Grand and check out the Golden Gopher...except they don't have a happy hour. Whoops! So we wound up at Broadway Bar instead. Good choice. The bar is big, the bar stools are comfy and the bartender was chatty and had an encyclopedic knowledge of booze.

MB had a dirty martini, a gin martini and a bourbon, I had two lemon drops (I was in the mood for a sweet drink). The music was pretty good, lots of early punk with some newer stuff tossed in the mix. It's great to have so many options in walking distance. I think next week we'll try Elevate or Origami.

Friday, September 5, 2008

More photos of Hayward rescue

Here are some great photos taken by Hatchetgirl of Monday's rescue of a suicidal resident at the Hayward.

Check out the whole set on Flickr.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Downtown BID wants to hear from families

MB and Kidlo were stopped on the street today by Justin Weiss, Assistant Director of Economic Development for the Downtown Center Business Improvement District. Weiss says that he'd like to hear from families living downtown. I think he's seeing it primarily as a way to get families to promote the neighborhood, but it's also a great chance for families to become more visible and make our needs known to the business community.

That reminds me: when I first moved Downtown I saw drug dealing going on in front of the Alexandria. I called the police and got a polite response but the dealing didn't stop. Then I called the BID. The drug dealers were gone within the week. Lesson learned. If you want something done, go to the people who have the money.

I'll post an update once I speak with Weiss. If you'd like to contact him, you can reach him at

Monday, September 1, 2008

Breaking news

From MB: At 6:45 pm, there are a dozen police cars and four or five fire trucks in front of the Hayward. Apparently one of the residents is threatening to jump. Captain Jodie Wakefield is there in a white t-shirt and khakis, rushing around and looking very concerned. I hope this gets resolved without anyone getting hurt.

Update: Bustard tells us that the police were able to get the women man to safety (thanks to Hatchetgirl for the correction). Apparently he was despondent over the death of his companion 18 months ago. Very sad, but I'm glad that the police were able to talk him down.

More on families downtown

MB, Kidlo and I were having breakfast at the little Mexican place on Spring between 6th and 7th when we met another family with a two-year-old daughter. Turns out they are moving into our building next week--that makes three families in our building. Very exciting! The dad is an architect who is moving from 725 S. Spring Street. He told us it's a classic artist's building--people welding in their lofts at 3 am, all night parties, screaming and carrying on in the alley behind the building. Fun for a single but a bit too much for someone with a young kid so he's moving to our relatively sedate building. The dad had lots of ideas for creating a play space in our building's basement, which is huge and mostly unused except for the exercise area. I think it's a great idea and I'm going to ask the building management if they'll let us take over a small piece of real estate.

Meanwhile, I found out there's another Downtown family group. They meet regularly for playdates in Grand Hope Park, which is wonderful. I can't wait to meet up with them. Their site also features a map of kid-friendly destinations near Downtown.

View Larger Map

It's exciting to be a part of a community that's growing right in front of my eyes.

The Evolution of Spring Street

There are a lot of changes happening in my little slice of Downtown. The Hayward Hotel is completing a revamping of its facade in anticipation of new tenants, including a yogurt shop (groan...), a clothing store and a 2,000-sf market (yay!!). Across the street, a nightclub will be opening at the Stock Exchange Building (though a lot of people aren't happy about the news). There's the revamped Charley O's and another nightclub opening in the Spring Arts Tower. And there are at least four buildings that will open up for residency in the next year. On my corner alone we're looking at 200 new units.

I really think that Spring Street has the biggest potential to become the heart of the "new" Historic Core--much more so than Broadway. Broadway as it is now is a success--not for the folks who are moving into the lofts, but for the people who come in from the Eastside (the real Eastside) to shop. Broadway is packed every weekend and it has some of the highest retail rents in Los Angeles--almost as high as Beverly Hills! It's obviously profitable for the building owners as-is, so what incentive do they have to upgrade the retail space to accommodate more upscale stores?

In contrast, Spring Street has gorgeous buildings that are rapidly filling with residents and many empty storefronts that can be upgraded without displacing any tenants. It's also lined with ficus trees (which Bert Green and I both like), making it very inviting for pedestrians, even in the heat of the summer.

I like the idea of two Downtown shopping districts coexisting side-by-side. I can shop at the stores on Broadway when I need inexpensive things for the house, but still have my iced coffee at LA Cafe. It's hard for people in LA to imagine having two wildly different shopping areas existing thisclose together, but if you've ever been to NYC, you know it can work.